The Mekong River Basin encompasses a vast range of geographic and climatic zones; as a result, it is endowed with diverse and abundant natural resources. Among the world’s river basins, only the Amazon possesses a greater diversity of plants and animals. On average, an astounding 15,000 m3 of water flows into the Mekong mainstream from the surrounding basin area every second – enough to meet the daily needs of 100,000 people. The water irrigates large tracts of forest and wetlands that produce building materials, medicines and food and serve as habitats for thousands of species.
The Basin contains many and varied wetlands that perform wide-ranging functions and sustain key social, economic and cultural values. Wetlands also play a vital role in supporting the livelihoods of local people, providing a productive environment for agriculture, aquaculture, capture fisheries, non-fish aquatic goods and tourism revenue. In addition, natural wetlands provide equally important indirect benefits, such as flood mitigation, water storage and wastewater treatment.
Mekong River Basin countries form a large section of the Indo-Burma biodiversity hotspot. A broad variety of ecosystems are present in the region, including mixed wet evergreen, dry evergreen, deciduous and montane forests, shrub lands and woodlands on karst limestone outcrops, and mangroves. Non-timber forest products provide an important source of income for rural people and supply markets with a vast array of plant and animal products, including foods, medicines, exudates and dyes.
Known mineral resources in the Basin include gold, copper, lead, zinc, phosphate, potash, oil and gas, coal and gemstone (principally corundum, including rubies and sapphires). The mineral potential of the Basin remains largely unexploited.
The Basin’s numerous and varied wetlands support essential social, economic and cultural values. The wetlands provide productive environments for rice cultivation, freshwater capture fisheries, other forms of agriculture and aquaculture and tourism.
Natural wetlands also provide equally important indirect benefits:
Water levels on much of the Mekong River have been higher than the long-term average since November last year with unusual fluctuations observed in last December and February
Unusually high rainfall is the most likely cause of a recently observed increase in sediment concentrations in large parts of the Lower Mekong Basin but the trend is decreasing
Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand and Viet Nam today agreed to elevate the Don Sahong Hydropower Project discussions to the higher ministerial level.